Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Problem with All These Crosses

A friend of mine, Barb, that manages our local museum has this bad habit of giving me little projects to work on - genealogical puzzles that involve history. When I say I have enough puzzles of my own to solve, her reply is always "but you're so good at this." I don't know how good I am, but I do love solving puzzles. She also said since I liked to write it would make for a good story. Adding an historical element has what got me involved in working at our local Historical Society Archives. Her recent puzzle was about three different men with the last name of Cross and all apparently were involved somehow with stone carving as part of their profession. One of these men it turned out was her great grandfather. I promised her I would take a stab at it. So I had to do some research on these three men.

First of all the easiest one to study was from right here in Brown County, Henry Cross. Most Brown Countians know of his work because he left many beautiful tombstones in our cemeteries. But what he is most famous for is his work that he did for the County in carving three road markers. It is a well known marker and even the local community has assumed the name of Stone Head for this marker. It is a carving of a man's head on a rectangular block with directions and mileage carved on the bottom directing to local towns. Henry Cross was born 1822 and born in Brown County. He died Feb. 26, 1864 and is buried at the Melott Cemetery. So I need to go back further to see where his parents came from.

The second Cross to study was my friend, Barb's, great-grandfather, William Tyler Cross. She has a family bible and a lot of memorabilia on him as he was a well-to-do man of Peoria and Kewanee, Illinois. He owned his own marble-cutting business and I image he left a lot of beautiful marble carvings and headstones. There is also a scrapbook that her mother put together with many pictures of William Cross, newspaper clippings, and a magazine photo as well. From the family bible William T. Cross was born July 12, 1836 in Conesus, New York. He died Sept. 22, 1910 and is buried at the Springdale Cemetery in Peoria.

The third Cross was actually two brothers that were very artistic, one a stone carver and the other an artist. The younger brother, another Henry Cross, was a Chicago artist for many years and lived in Indiana for a short time with his brother, Ferdinand, who was the stone carver. Ferdinand came to Indiana settling near French Lick, Indiana to prospect the hills for good stone. Ferdinand was quite a good carver using the hillsides with rock outcroppings to make his carvings which were fanciful and intriguing to the tourists of the infamous French Lick Resort. Henry was quite good too, being known to have painted portraits of wild west characters such as Geronimo, Sitting Bull, and General Ulysses S. Grant. Both were born in Binghamton, New York with Ferdinand being born on Dec. 26,1838. Ferdinand died in French Lick on May 29, 1912 and is buried at Sulphur Creek Cemetery. His brother died in Chicago but wished to be buried next to his brother, Ferdinand.

You can find info on all these Crosses on

I made a list of my thoughts for this puzzle:
1. First thing that came to me was a name for my puzzle: The Problem with All These Crosses
2. So is it a problem or a clue?
3. All have the same talent!
4. Define areas they came from - possibly New York?
5. All ended up in Indiana (at least Barb ended up in Indiana if not her great grandfather).
6. Could they share the same creative gene, thus showing a relationship?
7. Or could this be a case of "occupation matching a name?"

I promised Barb I would try to find a connection - she's sure there has to be one - between all these stone-carving Crosses. I can gather what info I can on most of these men as they were all linked to Indiana and a lot of their life is recorded. Going to New York is out of the question, for now at least. And the farther back I go it looks like it will be a monumental task! No pun intended.

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